9 Things Successful First-Gen College Students Do Before Back-to-School Season
First-generation Latino college students are dedicated, determined, and creative students. That’s why we’ve teamed up with State Farm® to make this back-to-school season a success for college students who are paving the way for future generations. It’s not always easy to be the first, but it is always an accomplishment.
Whether you are a first-generation student returning to campus for another year or starting college for the first time: congratulations! It’s a big deal to go places no one in your family has had the opportunity to be before.
You might be feeling a range of emotions, from fear to excitement. What you definitely don’t want to be is underprepared. Luckily, we’ve got you covered!
Dr. Steven Osuna, associate professor of sociology and Chicano Latino Studies and academic advisor at California State University, Long Beach, shared the following advice with mitú for first-generation college students ahead of the new school year.
A balancing act
A top concern for college students is not making enough time for things other than school. Or vice versa: there might be a lot of pressure to make yourself available for every social event or club meeting.
Dr. Osuna says the most important tip he can give is to be organized. Using a digital or physical planner to write down all of your commitments ahead of time will help you gauge whether you have too much on your plate.
“Once everything is planned, you should do your best to keep up with the schedule,” said Dr. Osuna. “It’s okay if you don’t; you can adjust.”
Speaking of planners… review your syllabus ASAP
We know, we know… it’s technically still summer. The last thing you want to do is think about school or check your email. But you don’t want to show up on the first day and be expected to have done the reading.
Your syllabus will have every important due date for the semester or quarter. Write down every class, assignment, paper, and exam in your planner, and save yourself the stress.
Research your classes
Going into class as prepared as possible about the course and the professor will help you in the long run. Check out Rate My Professors to see anonymous reviews of the professor and class. Dr. Osuna says knowing what other students say about them is beneficial.
Additionally, visit your campus before the first day and find out where your classes are. You want to avoid getting lost and being late!
Learn about your campus resources
While you’re figuring out where your classes are, it won’t hurt to know where other important facilities are. You should know where to find your financial aid office, mental and student health services, bookstore, gym, library, and student center.
Stomp on bad habits early
Procrastination and lack of sleep can be detrimental to your grades and physical health. Dr. Osuna advises students to carve out time for schoolwork.
“Blocking out time for schoolwork will prevent [you] from leaving things until the last minute,” he says. “This will also help in getting rest.”
In order to prioritize sleep and avoid all-nighters in the library, try setting a regular bedtime for yourself before school starts.
Actually go to your professors’ office hours
Dr. Osuna can’t stress enough how important it is to visit your professor one-on-one. They want to know who you are too! He suggests stopping by briefly to introduce yourself. This way, it’ll be less intimidating to stop by when you have a question or concern about the class.
“If professors believe in student-centered learning, they will want to help you succeed in their courses,” said Dr. Osuna. “Professors knowing you will also help in the future if you need a letter of recommendation.”
If you’re starting or returning to school…
Have no fear; be prepared to learn about the world in your campus community. Dr. Osuna suggests identifying social issues you’re passionate about, studying them, and then going on to make a difference in the world. “Be excited about your educational journey,” he said.
Advocate for yourself on campus
Although you might think it’s unnerving to ask for help in a place where everyone seems to have it all figured out, we can assure you that you aren’t alone. First-gen students especially should be prepared to ask all the questions and get all the help they need in their new chapter.
“As a former first-gen student myself, I know it’s daunting to enter a new place like the university,” shared Dr. Osuna. “However, many former first-gen students work at universities and [are] more than willing to help you. They want to share their own experience with you.”
Keep imposter syndrome at bay
As you embark on your college experience, you should repeat to yourself often that you deserve to be there as much as anyone else. People want to see you succeed, and you’re paving the way for future first-gen college students.
“You have worked hard to get here and have many of us rooting for you,” said Dr. Osuna. “You are charting a new path for many that will be coming after you. They will one day be asking you for guidance and support.”
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